ERP 087: How To Handle The Stress From Your Partner’s Lost Job (Part II) [Transcript]
ERP 087: How To Handle The Stress From Your Partner’s Lost Job (Part II)
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Welcome to The Empowered Relationship Podcast, helping you turn relationship challenges into opportunities and setting you up for relationship success. Your host, Dr. Jessica Higgins, is a licensed psychologist and relationship coach who shares valuable tips, tools and resources for you to dramatically improve your relationship.
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Hi, thank you for joining today’s podcast episode. Today’s episode is 87, How To Handle The Stress From Your Partner’s Lost Job. This is part two, where I’m answering a listener’s submitted question. If you missed the previous episode, episode 86, by the same title, How To Handle The Stress From Your Partner’s Lost Job Part I, I encourage you to check that one out. I set the stage, I lay the foundation for what I’m talking about today.
Essentially, I read the listener’s question, which I’ll revisit today, and I talked about the common upset, the things that are often involved for people when they lose a job. I also offered a few specifics about what it’s like when men lose a job. Again, there’s some stereotypes around this, and the man’s experience can look a little different than the woman’s experience in getting laid off or losing a job, so I offer a little bit about that.
As I discuss what’s very common and what gets activated in the upset of getting laid off or losing a job and the stress of that, I also offered the first two tips. I have eight tips to share with you, so I’ll share six for this episode. But just to shortly summarize, the first two that I shared are 1) Deep Listening – really taking some potent times to show up, be present, and allow your partner to empty the cup, deepen in their level of sharing. With that deep listening, it invites someone to share more fully, more deeply, and it can be incredibly healing, and incredibly supportive.
The second tip is Believe. This has a lot to do with believing in your partner – their strengths, their capability, their value, their worth despite the current circumstances. So it’s holding the light, so to speak; believing in the positive outcome, even if it looks super crappy at the moment. They might be in it, they might be confronting a lot of negative feelings, and while you might wanna listen and be supportive and understanding and validating of that upset, also holding the real belief in their goodness, in the positivity. Even if they have forgotten or aren’t seeing it, it’s holding that, and maybe at times mirroring it back, reflecting it back, whether or not it’s silently, just the way you look at them, the way you think about them, the way you feel about them, or something you might say to remind them of their strengths, of their resources, of their capability. There’s a lot of benefits to this, which I talked about in my last episode.
So again, check that out if you missed it, that’s episode 86. Today’s episode is 87, and this is How To Handle The Stress From Your Partner’s Lost Job. In my last podcast episode I also shared with you that I have gotten several suggestions and interest in perhaps doing something additional, that would provide more opportunities for you guys to interact and engage in dialogue, and we can deepen in this conversation together.
These couple ideas that I’m kicking around are a twice-a-month call, a Facebook group, or both. I would love to hear from you, if this is something that you’re interested and you would find value in and you would like to hear more about. Or if you have another idea, I would love to hear maybe some of the things that you would be interested in in connecting and building this community as we really intentionally invest in the quality of our relationship, placing high value on our relationship and the quality of it. Not just that we are partnered, but that the partnership is at its highest level; that our relationship is something that is breathing and living, and that it’s vital, that it’s healthy, and that it’s growthful, that it’s lasting, authentic and fulfilling, something that we can really feel proud of and it’s reflective of us and our significant other. That it really has meaning, that we’ve developed something that is in accordance with what is most important to us, represents us, but also sustains us and nourishes us, and also will require us to grow at times.
Part of the paradigm here that we’re talking about on this show is when we’re confronted with difficult, with conflict, that we can see that as an opportunity. There’s some learning in that. And again, I talk about myself on this podcast; I’m pretty transparent that I also am on this path.
On this show I will have listeners who wanna receive live laser coaching. If you’re interested in that, you can find me on my website, which is DrJessicaHiggins.com, click on Contact and you can find more details there.
I also answer your submitted questions, so you can e-mail me a topic, or a wondering, or a specific question, and I also interview other experts in the field. Again, my intention is to bring a variety of voice, of perspective, to enrich and deepen in this important venture that we’re in, of being in relationship. It’s not easy at times, and it can feel complex at times.
Ultimately, my desire is for you to feel equipped in navigating developing intimacy and setting your relationship up for success. If you’re interested in engaging in a little bit more of a dialogue in this conversation, let me know, send me an e-mail. I can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org and let me know what you’re thinking. I would love to hear from you. And thank you for those of you who do reach out to me, e-mail me and give me feedback, let me know what you’re interested in. It does make a big difference, so thank you.
Again, for today’s podcast episode we are continuing the conversation of how to handle the stress from your partner’s lost job. I’m going to be offering you six tips that will give you in total eight tips of how to handle this stress. To revisit the listener’s question – this comes from Christen – she writes:
“I sought out your podcast a few days ago and have found it very helpful for the difficult situation my relationship is currently in. My partner lost his job a couple months ago due to downsizing at his company. Since then he has lost a lot of confidence, reignited many insecurities, has become extremely negative about everything related to job searching, and has been pretty unmotivated. Meanwhile, I work hard 40 hours a week, and it’s really hard for me to remain positive and supportive. I would love to hear an episode that could speak to about this.”
Again, thank you so much for submitting this question. This is something that I hear in my couple’s sessions with my clients periodically, when a couple is going through this situation. As I mentioned, I too have been through this difficult situation.
For today, I am continuing the tips, like I said, picking up with tip number three, Have A Plan. It can be easy to focus on the emotional upset, which I spoke to, and the importance of that. That’s super, super real. We don’t wanna overlook that or sweep that under the rug, for sure. And equally as important are the logistics, the structure. Things might look different and seem different now that you don’t have his income contributing to your household. So it can be really helpful to just rip off the bandaid so to speak, and really get honest – what does this mean? What is this gonna look like for us from a financial standpoint?
I don’t know if you guys share your finances or you do your finances separately, but as a couple it can be helpful to really get a game plan, sooner rather than later. Not having that clarity can provoke a little more anxiety. If your partner and you haven’t had this discussion, there could be a lot of questions and uncertainty, assumptions and expectations that could make this even that much more difficult. So if you can get on the same page and look at what is essential, simplifying, getting down to what is necessary, that can actually add a breath of fresh air, to not feel the pressure to sustain the same type of lifestyle. So it might mean scaling back the massages, physical trainer, gym memberships, laundry service, cleaning service, dining out, premium cable… These are all maybe first-world luxuries, but these are things that we can scale back on. It doesn’t mean that we won’t pick them back up when we’re in a better situation, but if we want to be strategic about working together to make this situation more doable, and minimize the stress and the burden, I think this can be helpful to do sooner rather than later.
I don’t know if you have children, but looking at routine, domestic chores – things are gonna shift, things are gonna change, so you can’t rely on your usual norm, or the status quo, or the flow of what you’re used to. This has been an upset. It requires looking at things differently, with this restructuring perhaps your partner will pick up more of the domestic work and contribute in other ways. Maybe he’ll really help you out, maybe he’ll cook more meals or take care of errands… Who knows? I have no idea how you guys structure your responsibilities as a couple and as a family. This is something you guys can renegotiate.
It is really worth noting here that I published episode 63 and episode 64, and this is when she earns more than he does. The title is How To Keep Your Relationship Strong When She Is More Successful. This has to do with the partner in heterosexual relationships where the female is the breadwinner. I don’t think that that is your situation, but if you’re interested in checking those two episodes out, I think it can be helpful. It might be somewhat related to consider some of the variables that go into that situation.
Again, in my previous podcast, episode 86, I talked about sometimes when we are dealt a difficult hand, not what we expected, it’s an upset. It’s how we deal with it that determines the outcome, or the measure or the level of success. It’s not the fact that it happened to us that’s the dealbreaker, it’s how we deal with it. Getting on the same page, working together and getting logistic and strategic together can provide some structure of some understanding and some agreements and expectations that can help you move forward, which can always be revisited. But sometimes couples do not sit down and have this conversation explicitly. It’s uncomfortable, it’s painful, and as I mentioned in the beginning in my last podcast, particularly for men stereotypically, to feel the guilt or the shame or the inadequacy or the humility of not being able to contribute and provide can be very difficult and demoralizing. Again, if you can look at it and confront it a little more honestly, I think it can relieve some of that tension.
Number four – Offer Support. I think 1, 2 and 3 are all ways of offering support, and I wanna speak to this a little more specifically. Again, given the fact that your partner is going through a very difficult time right now, you might not know how to show up for him. I know when I was in this situation I fumbled quite a bit. I was like, “Does he just want me to listen? Does he want me to encourage him? Does he want me to challenge him because he’s in a victim mindset, or basically just hold him and be with him, let him know he’s not alone?” There’s so many different ways of showing support.
So I wanna reference the podcast episode number three, one of my first few podcasts. It’s Six Ways Of Being Supportive, and it’s basically summarizing the common ways that people wanna feel supported. Your partner might have something totally different, so I think it’s really fair to say, “Look, I’m not sure how you would feel supported right now. I would like to know; if you have any ideas, let me know.” Circle back. “If you don’t know right now, I would love to hear from you.”
The six ways that I categorized are people wanna feel heard; they wanna feel emotionally understood, they wanna feel encouraged, belief… They wanna also feel some perspective. That might look like challenging, pointing out things that he might be overlooking.
People also want feedback, like “Help me brainstorm this.” When I think about other ways that I might be missing the ball here, things that I might not know about. And also, people typically like to just feel the comfort and the physical presence of another human being. I talk a lot more about that in episode three, if you’re interested in checking that out. I will also put this and all the things that I’ve mentioned on the show notes. Again, you can find that on my website, which is DrJessicaHiggins.com, and you can scroll down to the bottom and see Mentioned, and there will be links there.
Again, I remember when my husband and I were going through this difficult situation, it would depend. Sometimes he wanted to feel just hear, he didn’t want any feedback at all. Other times, he did want feedback. He was like, “Help me think about this. Brainstorm with me.” It varied depending on his mood and depending on maybe where I was at. It’s not an exact recipe, at all. So again, opening up the lines of communication and being able to say, “As the support person, here’s what I’m wanting to do, here’s my inclination” – really being honest about that. “I don’t know what to say, I just feel like I really wanna hear you and listen, and let that be what you have to give, let that be okay.”
Or perhaps feeling like you could go a lot of different directions, like “I’m not sure if you’re wanting feedback right now, or feeling some encouragement would be helpful right now… I would love to point that out to you.” I think together you guys can basically define this as you go. If you have this open dialogue, you can name what you’re feeling in the moment, and it can be incredibly helpful.
There are times with my husband where I start to go down the route of challenge, trying to challenge the way he’s looking at it, and he will tell me, “Hey, right now I’m not really that receptive to it at the moment. Maybe later I will.” Or he’ll tell me, “Look, I just want you to listen right now.” So we’ve gotten to the place where we’re able to really try to be specific and name it with one another, and that can be so helpful, because you’re fine-tuning it as you go along.
I think I remember at one point my husband said, “Sometimes really all I wanna hear and feel from you is a gentle touch, feeling that physical contact, that skin to skin, and just reassuring me… It’s all gonna be okay. We’re gonna get through this… You’ve got this. It’s all gonna be okay.” And just that soothing comment… That’s specific to him, right? Where for me it might be something totally different. So again, if you guys can try to explore this and maybe speak out loud, name it and really adjust accordingly.
Number five – this is the one I really wanted to talk about with your question. It’s Attending To Your Needs. It can feel like your partner’s difficulty will trump you, because he’s got something that’s [unintelligible 00:20:42.24] It’s a little more intense, and he’s needing maybe a little bit more. A real challenge if you notice you’re having feelings of resentment, or you’re having feelings of frustration, or you’re feeling alone, or burdened, or scared, or anxious, questioning, all of these things. You’re gonna have your own emotion, and that’s important to be honest about.
I remember there was a time when my husband was going through this, and I had really… Personally, my personal style is to be very considerate, and I had participated in this dynamic where it was all about him. He would come home from work, and perhaps had had a great day but didn’t feel like I could really speak to my successes, because in contrast to what felt like his failure, it didn’t feel fair, it didn’t feel like a nice thing to do. Yet, fast-forward several months into this, it was difficult to sustain. And I felt like, “Hey, what about me? I’m part of this relationship. You’re my person, I wanna share this with you. I wanna feel supported by you.”
So we did have a conversation, I was able to name that, and it actually was counter-intuitive for me. It actually gave him a place to be there for me, to show up for me and meet a need of mine for him to feel successful that he was of value, that he can make a difference. So in my mind I felt like I was adding more difficulty by putting a need on for him, but truly it felt refreshing for him to stop thinking about his situation and really show up for me, and feel like he is doing something of value.
So if there’s any place that you can be honest with yourself, perhaps identify what you’re feeling, and being real about that. Some people like to journal, some people like to talk to a friend, or maybe even just say, “Hey, I think I’m feeling some things. I don’t know if you’re available, but I would love to think out loud about what this has been like for me. Are you open to that?”
Say it like, “Hey, I wanna talk about my part in this. I’m half of this, too. I’m having an experience with you, and it’s different, but it’s also important. Can we give space for that?” Once you can identify what you’re feeling and share it with him, there might be a need there. There might be something that you’re needing from him, whether or not it’s “Hey, I would love for you to do the laundry” or “I feel overwhelmed. Can we share the load a little more?” Or if it’s, “Hey, I wanna hear about you, but can we also create some time to hear about what’s going on for me?” Let him show up for you. Let him make you happy, as best that he can in this current situation.
Again, it’s this balance of not catering too much to him, making it all about him, giving yourself space to fill your own cup. And there might be times where you have limits and boundaries; where maybe you’ve had a hard day and you don’t have the bandwidth to hear his job upheaval difficulties, the rollercoaster, his upset or his venting. You might not have a lot of capacity for that, and just to say “I love you. I wanna hear… I don’t know if you can give me the short version and then we can talk about it more tomorrow, but I’ve had a crazy day. I really would love to just have some quiet, or I’d love for us to just talk about something else.”
Or if you need some time with girlfriends, or go to the gym, or get exercise, like doing your own self-care, filling your own cup. Again, mentioning a podcast episode, I interviewed a woman who I loved our conversation. This is episode 83, so it’s a recent one – How Vibrant Community Helps Support Healthy Relationship, with Christianne Pelmas. She does a great job of talking about how we tend to expect so much from our relationship. So resourcing other supports.
Okay, so that’s number five, which is Attend To Your Own Needs – really put yourself in the mix, make yourself a priority. If you’re the one that’s carrying the load, that’s not sustainable, especially if he’s on a longer process track. If this is bringing up more for him, then I imagine it’ll be a little bit more time to really work this out. So I want you to feel resourced, supported in this, and I do think it could be healthy for your couple dynamic, where he can be there for you.
Number six – I was starting to go into this – is Recruit Outside Support. This is like a no-brainer, but can be extremely difficult to execute, especially if your partner’s wanting to isolate, wanting to be a little more homebound, kind of licking his wounds, so to speak… It can be difficult to be out in the community, or with family and friends. It feels really exposed; it can feel humiliating, or having to face that shame. Yet, if we can feel the people that love us and support us, what we feel internally is usually way worse than what really people are feeling for us. Giving people an opportunity to help, in some way.
This is a lot of Brené Brown’s work – that vulnerability ironically is a place that we feel most connection, when we can be honest about our sensitivity and what’s going on for us, and let people see our pain. It’s a hard time right now, and again, even as a couple, we’re about to go into the holidays and it’s difficult to say, “Yeah, it’s a challenge right now”, to be honest about that. That’s not necessarily the type of conversation we wanna have over the holiday. So perhaps maybe thinking “How can I be honest, but also considerate of — we also wanna have a good time, right?” So maybe say, without going into all the details, “It’s been a challenge this year” or “It’s been a rough last few months”, and letting people in a little bit, letting people show up. People wanna help, people do care. And again, referencing that episode 83.
Also, again, with your partner, where there are resources, I imagine… I don’t know where you guys are and where you live in the world, but often times there’s groups, there’s really affordable resources through the city about job hunting, resumes or networking groups, or how to be strategic in getting a job and making connections… There’s coaches, there’s therapists, so I think some outside support could really infuse your couple dynamic and give you some boost here if you’re feeling like there’s a heaviness that’s starting to take hold. You’re not alone, there are so many people going through this… And learning from other people and what they’ve been able to do in this difficulty; not having to recreate the wheel here.
It’s funny I put Nature under Recruit Outside Support, but I do feel that when we can get outside of ourselves for a moment, whether or not that’s going on a little bit of a road trip, going for a hike, or even just getting outside in a park, or walking around the neighborhood – it can change our environment, give us some fresh air. And if we can get into nature, it has this very interesting, profound impact where we start to get a little more perspective; we start to be in the moment a little bit more, breathe more, feel the natural cycles of life, where there’s renewal and birthing and growing, and then letting go and decomposing, and there’s just a natural cycle that’s happening.
I could talk a lot more about this, but I think that if we can get outside of our little world and get some perspective and feel maybe, “Oh, I am healthy. I am breathing fresh air. I feel the warmth of the sun”, and just feeling the abundance around you perhaps.
I have two more points to offer you. Number seven is Getting Creative. There are so many things that don’t require money that would allow you guys to still enjoy each other, still enjoy life. My take on getting creative – I don’t know where you guys are living, but sometimes there are some museums, or zoos… Places have discounts or free days.
Some other ideas are having a potluck. Instead and providing the whole dinner, inviting friends to contribute, and that can be a very different way of sharing a meal together, and one that is very affordable. And it can be fun, right? Not everybody enjoys that, but it can be a temporary support or creative idea.
Perhaps riding a bike together, going for a hike, packing a picnic… These are all things that maybe you would do in the summer, and again, I don’t know where you are living in the world, but maybe it’s putting on your run gear and going for a hike. I grew up in the Pacific Northwest where most people would hunker down in the winter because it rains and there’s a blanket of clouds and it’s not necessarily that inviting to get outdoors. But I’ll tell you, put on the run gear; as long as your feet ar dry and you’re dry, it’s one of the best times to go for a hike. Everything’s wet, all the plants and trees are open because they’re absorbing the moisture, and it’s very little people on the trail. It takes a little more effort sometimes, but it’s definitely doable and can feel so rewarding and nurturing.
I think at the end of the day this whole intention of getting creative is to really invite play, invite nurture and support with one another that doesn’t require money. There is connection available, there is play available, even if you don’t have to spend money to do it. It does take a little more innovative ideas and getting creative.
Again, whether or not it’s “Let me massage your feet” or “Rub my neck”, trade massages… Literally, if you google – I posted this on social media several times, date night ideas that don’t involve money. There is a plethora of stuff online, I’m just kind of skimming the very surface here. Maybe make that into a little date night – I don’t know if you have laptops or computers or smartphones, but just say “Okay, let’s spend 15-20 minutes picking out our top 10 (each picking 10) ideas that don’t require money for our particular climate in these next few months.” Again, maybe it’s not gonna feel easy to execute, but just really making it a priority to get creative an infuse your relationship with something new, a shared experience that is enjoyable for both of you.
One of the other ideas too here is volunteering together. I think that’s one of the best ways to get out of a difficult mindset – to be of service and to show up for people that maybe have it even worse off than you guys have it right now.
Again, it’s bringing that sense of perspective… My uncle said this years and years ago – he had read something somewhere, I don’t remember what it was, but he said “The recipe for unhappiness is thinking only about yourself, and over and over again thinking about what you don’t have and what is missing. That’s the complete recipe for unhappiness.” We all live inside our little microcosms and it’s hard not to think about yourself, and that’s not the point, but it’s to balance that right. If you’re in a funk and you’re preoccupied with your own hardships, it’s showing up for others who are in need and making a difference, feeling some utility, feeling some contribution, some connection, and also perspective, that there is a lot to be grateful for.
Number eight, the last one here – Have An Abundance Mindset. I’ve spoken about this just a tad, but how to remember what you do have… Focus on what is in your life that you can give credit to, whether that’s a healthy body, or the fact that you guys are in a loving relationship, you do care about each other, you are committed, you have family, you have a community, you have clean air, clean water… You could probably list a bunch of things, but even if doesn’t feel emotionally positive, it still is a nice practice to just acknowledge the things that we might not be paying attention to.
Sometimes my husband and I, if either one of us are in a funky mood and the tone is just a little more scarcity mindset, then one of us will initiate, “Okay, what’s a highlight from your day? What’s something that your really are appreciative of or grateful for?” We kind of start naming some things or we start sharing and it shifts the energy. Even if your partner might not be able to join you in this, you’re asking me “How do I stay positive?”, so I think one of the biggest things is point number five, which is really attending to your own needs. Number six is Recruiting Outside Support, so filling up your own cup, making sure you are getting your needs met.
Also in this point number eight, having an abundant mindset, believing that your circumstances will improve and that there’s good in this, there’s learning in this, even if it doesn’t look like it; believing that there’s value in this experience, and perhaps maybe even acknowledging and appreciating something about your partner, rather than just looking at what he’s not doing, or the issue you’re taking with maybe how he’s approaching this whole situation. But is there anything that you can see in him? Is he doing anything around the house? Is he more available for you time-wise, and maybe noting that. Helping him feel your appreciation. It’s a positive cycle – when he feels appreciated, he’s probably gonna wanna contribute something in a positive way, and then we start having a positive cycle, rather than criticizing on each other.
So just being in that mindset — and it does take training the mind or directing the mind, focusing on “Okay, what is here that’s really good? …that’s not again gonna be the natural inclination.” When things are hard, our natural wiring is to look at the threats, the upset, why it’s hard, how to protect ourselves and how to mitigate some of that. Again, training your mind to focus on what you do have, to balance that out.
One of the really great ways is to use your body and your breath to just ground in the moment, like “What is around me right now that I can see that is valuable? I have shelter, I have warmth.” It might be a small thing, but it’s actually a big thing. Or “I’m able to breathe, I’m able to sit up straight.” There’s some real in-the-moment things that you can bring your attention to. I know some people who do a lot of abundance mindset training encourage people just even with the breath… I’m receiving as I inhale and I’m letting go as I exhale. Even that cyclical inhale/exhale, there is abundance in that. There’s always this new breath that’s coming in. You don’t have to hold the breath in because you’re not gonna get more. We trust that there’s gonna be oxygen in our next breath.
These are simple reminders that I’m sure you’re familiar with or have heard, but again, even as I say it, I’m like “Oh, this is good. I wanna be doing this today”, just focusing on the inhale and the exhale, and just really slowing down and appreciating what is right now.
In the Forbes articles that I mentioned, Bouncing Back From Job Loss: The 7 Habits of Highly Effective Job Hunters – again, this might be something more suited to your partner – “A proactive and positive mindset will differentiate you from the masses, making all the difference in how “lucky” you get in an unlucky economy. It will even determine whether you one day look back on this time with some measure of gratitude for what you have gained from it, whether it was a chance to reevaluate your life, spend extra time with your family, teach your kids about budgeting, or simply reaffirm what matters most.”
In summary, the eight tips that I’m sharing with you around how to handle stress from your partner’s lost job are:
- Offer support.
- Attend to your needs.
- Recruit outside support.
- Get creative.
- Have an abundance mindset.
I would love to hear your feedback if you have a comment or you wanna contribute to what I’ve already spoken about. You can comment on the podcast show notes. You can find that on my website, which is DrJessicaHiggins.com, click on Podcast and you can find the most recent episode there at the top. Again, this is episode 87, and also the previous was 86, both titled How To Handle The Stress From Your Partner’s Lost Job (Part I and Part II).
You can scroll down at the bottom, you can comment, you can find the links that I’ve mentioned, you can find the show notes for today’s episode and the previous episode. And again, I would love to hear from you if you have any input.
Also, if you have a question that you would like me to create a podcast episode on, or if you would like to be on the show and receive live, laser coaching, feel free to contact me. Again, find me on my website DrJessicaHiggins.com, click Contact and you can find the details there.
I have enjoyed spending this time, I appreciate your listenership. Until next time, I hope you take great care.
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